Written and Photographed
by Jeffrey Gurian
Jeffrey Gurian and Lorne
Saturday Night Live
- An Untold Story at The Writers Guild Awards
More years ago than I want to
remember, the legendary Jack Rollins (who was representing
not only Woody Allen at the time, but also Billy
Crystal and Robin Williams) called the legendary
Emmy-award winning writer/producer Herb Sargent
at SNL on my behalf and asked him to meet with me
and take a look at some short comedy films I was
doing at the time.
Short films like "The Masters
of Disguise": Two master criminals who disguised
themselves as inanimate objects to commit their
crimes. Like - Two men disguised as coats rob a
hat store. They come in over the arms of two other
men who swear they had no part in the whole thing.
I cut to an interview with the two unwitting accomplices,
who explain, "These two guys came up to us,
folded themselves over our arms, stuck guns in our
ribs, and said ‘Just act natural like we're
your coats, and nobody'll get hurt.’"
The crimes escalated to the point
where 250,000 men disguised as vests robbed a suit
warehouse of their entire inventory. The confused
designer said, "I know I only design two piece
suits. I went to the factory this morning, and every
single suit had a vest. I came back from lunch,
and all of the suits were gone - a quarter of a
million suits, gone. ‘It had to be the vests!’"
All the interviews were on film, and it was done
like a news broadcast.
Robert Duvall and Jeffrey
Gurian at the WGA
Anyway, I go to meet Herb Sargent,
who was in charge of News Update, and he says to
me (and I'll never forget his exact words!), "I
don't even have to look at your tape. If Jack Rollins
says you're funny, you're funny." Anyway he
looks at the tape, laughs out loud, and makes an
appointment for me to meet with John Head who was
in charge of film acquisition at the time.
And this is where
things start to go terribly wrong, thanks to me.
I have an appointment to meet with John on a Wednesday.
I decide to act like a big shot, and invite a gorgeous
girl I was trying to impress to come on my interview
with me. Have you ever heard of anything so stupid
in your life? You invite a girl to come to a business
meeting that could fulfill the dream of a lifetime?
Tracy Morgan and Jeffrey Gurian at
the WGA Awards
Of course she agrees to come.
She was a model/actress, and hungry to meet people.
So I show up at SNL with this girl in tow, and who
do we run into but good old Dennis Miller. Dennis
was doing News Update at the time, and was also
very single. I had known him from Columbus Café,
and so he asked me why I was there. He wasn't really
listening to my answer, since he couldn't take his
eyes off this girl, and made it obvious he wanted
to meet her.
When I told Dennis about my tape
he asked if he could sit in on the meeting. That
was when The Universe decided to really teach me
a lesson. I of course said " yes" in all
my naivete, excited that he too would be seeing
my "genius" work, not realizing for a
moment that he does comedy news and that my tape
was comedy news.
At the end of the viewing, John
said to me (and his words are also etched into my
consciousness), " I see no reason why you shouldn't
be doing films for SNL. Call me on Monday and I'll
set up a meeting for you with Lorne." I was
ecstatic, despite the fact that the girl I was with
had surreptitiously given Dennis her number.
Jeffrey Gurian and Jamie-Lynn Sigler at the WGA
Over that weekend, instead of
seeing me, she went out with him, and wound up socializing
with a couple of huge comedy stars that were friends
of his, while I stayed at home wanting to kill myself.
But wait, it gets better!
That Monday, I call John to make
the appointment to see Lorne, and John tells me
in a kind of hesitant way that Dennis Miller liked
my work so much, that he wanted to be the one to
take it to Lorne so he (John) was out of it, He
told me to call Dennis which I did, about a hundred
times, and he never returned my call. To say I was
frantic would be the phrase that won the Gold medal
in the "Understatement Olympics", if there
ever was such a thing.
Sarah Jessica Parker, Pippin
Parker (Sarah's Brother)
and Matthew Broderick at the WGA Awards
Finally I ran into Dennis at Columbus
Cafe and asked him what was up. He said the show
wanted him to do remotes, and that wasn't his thing,
or "his focus" as he put it, but he acknowledged
that it was my thing, so he said if I could get
him some remotes that he liked, he would use them
on the show.
Very nice until he told me he
wanted them the next day. I stayed up all night
writing them, got them over to him, and he never
even got back to me. No response at all. I was devastated.
I tried to contact Lorne, but I wasn't able to,
and I didn't really think he would take my side
against one of his stars, so I just let it go.
Only a few people know this story
up until now. Lorne Michaels is not one of them.
The big lesson here is when you try to look like
a big shot, you usually wind up looking like the
ultimate putz! That incident probably changed my
Lorne received the coveted Herb
Sargent Award for Comedy Excellence at this year's
star-studded Writer's Guild Awards. Herb was President
of The Writers Guild of America East until his passing
in May of 2005. The Universe works in strange ways
as I found myself leaving the theatre at the end
of the evening basically pressed against Lorne Michaels
who was walking along by himself, right in front
The time might have been perfect
to tell him the story. Or, it might not have been.
It's always important to not come off like a maniac.
I had met Lorne many times over the years through
my friendship with cast members like Phil Hartman
and Jon Lovitz, but I hadn't seen him in quite a
Mark (Love Man) Pender of
the Max Weinberg 7 (Conan)
And Jeffrey Gurian
I was debating what to do and
making myself nervous I finally tapped Lorne on
the shoulder, and told him about Herb being my mentor,
reminisced about Phil a little bit, and then took
a photo together, but the story stayed with me.
I realized, it's not the kind of story you tell
someone when they're possibly in a hurry, getting
ready to leave a place.
And what would I have expected
him to do anyway, come to my house to see the films?
They are not outdated by the way because they are
fantasy comedy which never goes out of date. I did
ask about John Head and Lorne told me he was still
there. Maybe I'll just send him this column. If
any of you are close to Lorne, feel free to pass
The WGA awards were amazing and
I got great stories from Academy Award winning actor
Robert Duvall (who was very gracious and humble),
the incredibly funny and talented Tracy Morgan,
genius creative force Tom Fontana (V.P. of the WGAE),
Jerry Della Femina, Judy Licht and award winning
actor Matthew Broderick for my book called "Turning
Point - A Book of Hope and Inspiration," about
the synchronicitous events in celebs lives that
took them in a different direction. But the Lorne
Michaels connection made the evening for me.
Silverman Totally Rocks
Sarah was headlining at Carolines two days before
the debut of her new Comedy Central show, "The
Sarah Silverman Program." I came away from
both with a new respect for Sarah. Not that I didn't
think she was funny before but I was particularly
struck by her cleverness, and her ability to talk
about things most people would never mention, but
do it in such a disarming way that you realize it
was just a joke.
Sarah Silverman and Jeffrey Gurian at Caroline's
She's a little girl and a sexy
little mynx all at the same time, and that duality
has always worked, especially for men. Her show
about her being convinced she has AIDS, and starting
an AIDS Awareness center only to find out that she
doesn't have it and then she gets chased and beaten
by a mob, is a classic example. She mixes fantasy
and reality in a way that I like, because I would
do it exactly the same way.
Also, she seemed genuinely excited
about me taking a photo of her with comedy legend
Joe Franklin. She made me promise to send it to
her, which I will.
Rockers On Broadway
Speaking of AIDS, I attended the
amazing benefit concert at B.B. King's called Rockers
on Broadway, a group that raises money to fight
AIDS, founded by Donnie Kehr of The Jersey Boys.
Donnie produced, along with Cori Gardner, and Sandy
Hicks, and it was hosted by funny, funny, sweet,
actress/comedienne Caroline Rhea, who looked gorgeous,
and whose make-up was done by my old dear friend
Seven Chaperon who I hadn't seen in almost ten years.
Liza Minelli and Jeffrey Gurian at B.B. King's Blues
What a line-up. The Tokens with
my buddy Jay Leslie opened the show with their legendary
hit, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." The audience
went crazy. Also on the bill: Debora Gibson, who
sang "It's My Party"; the legendary Mickey
Dolenz of The Monkees; country star Larry Gatlin;
J.Robert Spencer also of The Jersey Boys; and two
other legends - Leslie Gore and my old pal Liza
Bob Saget - The Nicest Guy In
When Bob Saget declined to be
in my new book "Filthy, Funny, and Totally
Offensive," he did it in a way that was so
kind and classy there was no way I could be offended.
He just felt he had been on too many compilation
projects after The Aristocrats. But he wrote me
the nicest letter of explanation. Very few celebs
declined, but his was definitely the nicest.
Jeffrey Gurian and Bob Saget
at the Press Conference
for "Farce of the Penguins."
At the press conference for his
new film, "Farce of the Penguins"(written
and directed by Bob), and starring everyone in Hollywood
including narration from Samuel L. Jackson, I had
a chance to have a serious conversation with Bob
on life and death and spiritual matters. H e confided
that his beloved Dad was so ill. I shared with him
the stories of when my own Dad was so ill and it
was a very meaningful conversation, unlike most
of the ego-filled events we both attend.
He left to tape Conan O'Brien
and only hours later received the news that his
father Ben, had passed away at age 89. Our deepest
condolences go out to you Bob!
Comedy Matters Girl of the
This month my "GOTM" is Jacqueline Beaulieu,
of Connecticut, not only an actress/ model, but
a classically trained ballerina. Talk about flexibility!
Jacqueline Beaulieu and Jeffrey Gurian
She's almost like a beautiful
version of Margaret Dumont who was often the comedic
foil for Groucho Marx. She was funny, but you never
were quite sure whether she got it! This girl gets
it, and I know you'll be seeing a lot of her!
Anyway, until next time, remember,
A nationally known comedy
writer and an authority on roast humor, Jeffrey
L. Gurian has written material for many of the great
performers at the fabled Friars Roasts including
Richard Belzer, Robin Williams, Milton Berle, Jerry
Lewis and even Bruce Willis, as well as material
for comedy stars such as Joan Rivers, Gilbert Gottfried,
Phil Hartman, Pauly Shore, "Dice" Clay,
and Pat Cooper. He wrote and directed The Men Who
Series of short films for the Toyota Comedy Festival
currently showing on cell phones and You Tube. .
He also wrote for MTV and USA Network and was one
of the writers of Sony's first interactive film.
As a playwright he wrote a one- hour NBC drama about
the devastating effects of homelessness on the young,
entitled De La Salle. He was given the honor of
having his own column in the legendary Weekly World
News called "Gurian's
World of the Bizarre." His first feature film
Face to Face, that he wrote with Scott Baio, made
its world premiere at the Taos, New Mexico Film
Festival, and was honored as the opening night film.
It has since become an award-winning film and won
for Best Comedy Feature at the Marco Island Film
Festival in Florida and the Valley Film Festival
in Hollywood. His newest film, I Am Woody , about
a mob boss obsessed with Woody Allen, won for Best
Short Film at the NY Independent Film Festival.
Jeffrey can be seen around town performing his comedy
news broadcast Uncle Nat's Traveling Peep Show with
his comedy partner model/performer Sonya Gignac.
Jeffrey was recently chosen to be the East Coast
producer of National Lampoon radio. His first book,
based on his writing for the Friars Roasts is from
Kensington Books, "Filthy, Funny, and Totally
Offensive - Jokes So Dirty Comedians and Entertainers
Only Tell Them To Each Other." In addition
Jeffrey is a Clinical Professor at NYU in the Oral
Medicine/Oro-Facial Pain Department, a cosmetic
dentist, lecturer, author and healer. He also is
credited for developing a cure for stuttering. You
may read more at http: www.jeffreygurian.com.